Friday, January 6, 2012

Spaceship Earth: A new view of environmentalism

Spaceship Earth enters 2012 belching smoke, overheating and burning through fuel at a frightening rate. It’s feeling pretty crowded, and the crew is mutinous. No one’s at the helm.

Sure, it’s an antiquated metaphor. It’s also an increasingly apt way to discuss a planet with 7 billion people, a global economy, a World Wide Web, climate change, exotic organisms running amok and all sorts of resource shortages and ecological challenges.

More and more environmentalists and scientists talk about the planet as a complex system, one that human beings must aggressively monitor, manage and sometimes reengineer. Kind of like a spaceship.

This is a sharp departure from traditional “green” philosophy. The more orthodox way of viewing nature is as something that must be protected from human beings — not managed by them. And many environmentalists have reservations about possible unintended consequences of well-meaning efforts. Read More